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A beautifully written and affecting experimental narrative, September 22, 2021
Written as a series of interlinked point of view stories, We Are the Firewall (WatF) presents a near-future dystopia of cultural wars, ubiquitous information systems, corrupt organisations, and educational first person shooters. Through this complex maze the protagonists attempt to navigate, each with their own story. Each almost but not quite interacting.
The text is dense and, at times, difficult - the narrative isn't straightforward or linear. It certainly doesn't pander to the reader. Untangling the strands and creating sense and meaning is, intentionally it seems, an act which impatient readers might tire of and be unwilling to engage with. This seems to be, at least in part, directly related to some of the underlying themes: a relationship with information, text, narratives, people is complex in a world in which information is constant and transitory. Complex and difficult to navigate.
The story uses multiple text effects in service of its narrative, some of which I have not seen before. Text appears and disappears. Changes. Often with little to no interaction by the player. At first this is disconcerting, but it rapidly becomes an accepted and integral part of the experience. Most interaction with text based games is static. The self-evolving/mutating text in WatF gives the piece a feeling of life and action and dynamism. And also instability and uncertainty. Which serves the story.
It's exciting how Twine authors are exploring their medium to produce novel ways for a reader to interact with their text. Anya DeNiro's 'We are the Firewall' as well as 'Solarium' I think rightfully belong in that top tier of longer experimental fiction/games alongside Porpentine, Phantom Williams and Jebediah Berry. The fact that it is also a beautifully written and affecting narrative is the cherry on the cake. It is a good day when you come across a work like this.
I have interacted with 4 of the protagonists so far, and, unlike many other branching texts, I am not ready to move on so quickly. I still want to interact with the others.